From the outside, selling seems like a fantastic career. Many sales people get to travel, attend trade shows, go to conferences, socialize, and earn a ton of money. However, those of us in the profession know that selling can be intimidating.

Cold calls. Objections. Frustration. Rejection. There are many occasions when we encounter resistance from buyers, or have to defend our price, or venture into new markets, or deal with cranky decision makers. It’s no surprise that many people who get into sales end up choosing another career. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to become successful in sales.

A neighborhood raccoon recently reminded me of several sales skills that will help you improve your sales career. Allow me to explain.

Our municipality does a lot of recycling and composting and we keep these products in bins on our back deck. I have come face-to-face with a mature raccoon on three separate occasions this past summer as it searched for food. The first two occurred while I was sitting outside on the deck, writing and enjoying a Cuban cigar. In each of these situations, the raccoon ignored me while it approached the bins. The first time it clawed its way up the side of the deck, and the second time it simply ambled up the stairs. I shooed it away both times by shrieking (yes, I admit that I shrieked) but it took several yells before he was frightened enough to leave. However, it was the third encounter that blew me away.

While watching TV one evening I heard a noise on the back deck and went to investigate. I turned on the light and saw the raccoon sitting on my barbeque gnawing the meat off a several rib bones I had discarded. I banged on the sliding glass door window, yelled and shouted, but to no avail. The raccoon simply stared at me and it was obvious he had no plans to interrupt his dinner even though I was less than two feet away albeit protected by the glass door.

Here are the lessons I learned from this marsupial.

Be Bold. This raccoon knows that he will eat well if he is willing to take a risk and be bold. Being bold means pushing your natural fear aside and trying new approaches. Being bold means taking calculated risks. Being bold means you move out of your comfort zone. Whether you have to summon up the courage to make a cold call or apply a new strategy, you can develop the ability to be bold. This is definitely not easy.

For many people cold calling is the most challenging aspect of selling and many people would rather suffer poor sales results rather than pick up the telephone and dial for dollars. However, if you summon up the courage to make just one call, it will become easier to make the second call, and even easier to dial that third number.

I figure that if a raccoon is willing to take a risk and be bold, so can you. It’s not easy but the reward often offsets the risk. Based on his weight, the raccoon has figured this out.

Ignore your initial fear. The raccoon appeared startled when he heard me yell the first time we came face-to-face. However, he did not immediately flee as I expected him to. It wasn’t until I escalated the volume (and, perhaps the pitch, too) that his fear overcame his desire to rummage for food. But, the third time we encountered each other, he took a calculated risk and maintained his ground. I know enough about wild animals to know that you don’t try and take away their food once they begin eating.

Be diligent. The lid for our compost is well-secured. However, this raccoon has figured out how to open it (I still can’t believe it!). I went as far as wrapping bungee cords around it and he still discovered a way to gain access. From a sales perspective, we must recognize that trying a new approach once will not result in the desired outcome. It takes plenty of practise to develop a high level of competency. Unfortunately, most sales people don’t give themselves permission to fail. They attempt to use a new process and when they don’t get the result they want, they move onto something else while convincing themselves that the new process won’t work in their situation. Successful salespeople keep working with that new concept until they master it and become proficient.

Even the best of us can learn and improve our skill. Take a lesson (or three) from a raccoon and get better results.

© 2009 Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Kelley Robertson, author of The Secrets of Power Selling helps sales professionals close more sales with less effort. Kelley conducts workshops and speaks regularly at sales meetings and conferences. Receive a FREE copy of 100 Ways to Increase Your Sales by subscribing to his free newsletter at Contact him at 905-633-7750 or